Chargers depth against injuries

Injuries are part of the game. They are inevitable facts that come with life in the NFL. Along the offensive and defensive line those injuries seem compounded. Depth is often a problem. No position on the San Diego Chargers roster can afford many slots designated for injures reserve and perhaps no spot is more vital than defensive tackle in the 3-4 where Jamal Williams mans the middle.

While everyone hopes Jamal Williams stays in perfect health, there have been times in the past when he has gone down. An illegal chop block here. An illegal chop block there.

The health of the backups becomes that much more important. One man who is vying for a spot with the team also has an injury history. An undrafted free agent out of Georgia, Ken Veal has had shoulder surgery and a recurring ankle injury that reared its ugly head when he needed to perform most.

The shoulder surgery harkens back to 2001. An injury such as that often will make you pause in action, not sure if it will be fine for the long haul. At the time, Veal was one of the strongest players on the Georgia team and that was threatened.

He went into recovery after the surgery and was soon back on the field and performing at a level he was comfortable. But even the jovial Veal had his reservations.

"It took two months," Veal said of his recovery. "They just went in and scoped it and cleaned some stuff. After the strength got back into my shoulder I started lifting. It wasn't that I was scared with it. I was just – after any kind of surgery you are going to be a little tentative.

"When I got back to lifting, there really weren't any problems. When I got my shoulder back to the strength it was at, I never looked back."

With a shoulder injury behind him, Veal set his sights on a making a big impact on the vaunted Georgia line as a senior.

It was not to be. While he still made plays, an ankle injury – debilitating to any lineman who relies on his feet to get an adequate push.

"It's frustrating because right at the end of my junior year, we were playing some real good football and I think I was playing some real good football," Veal said. "So I had bigger expectations and big things planned for my senior year. And for this to happen to me it was kind of disheartening but I kept fighting.

"That kind of hindered me. At the end of the season, I forgot my ankle was hurt. One of the freshmen fell on my ankle on the goalline and kind of stumped me the rest of my senior season but I think I did pretty good."

And now Veal is back to his explosive ways. With an eye on making the Chargers, he is reporting himself as healthy.

"I have been working out since January trying to get myself right," Veal explained. "I feel great now. Hard work and rehab is not out of place, I can do that."

And now the man referred to as "Pooh" by his friends will make the trek to Carson as training camp begins in earnest next week.

The only thing he does not want is to have his nickname reflect his play. It is a name that Veal is comfortable with and if the jokes start to come he will take it in stride.

"No, that's me so I am not ashamed of that," Veal replied. "More people know me as pooh than know me as Ken Veal. I have no problem having a nickname. I am not ashamed of it at all. I got pooh tattooed on my forearm. It is the first thing you are going to see of me."

Hopefully for "Pooh" it is not the only thing left to see when he is taped to a goal post at the end of camp.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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